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Graduate lawyers are being given STARTING salaries as high as £150,000

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10390269/Graduate-Lawyers-given-STARTING-salaries-high-150-000.html

Graduate lawyers are being given STARTING salaries as high as £150,000 as recruiter says pay inflation is the highest it's been in 20 years with firms locked in a 'fierce competition for talent'
This post betrays your lack of understanding of the sector, as well as the FT's persistently poor coverage of anything law-related (not just salaries!).

The earliest that one of these "graduate lawyers" (are you referring to graduates or qualified solicitors?) would be earning that salary would after studying the LPC for a year and then two years of training on c.£50,000-60,000 a year. The absolute earliest they could secure this salary would therefore be at the age of 24.

Now, in reality, the firms that pay these enormous sums tend to recruit older candidates and half of their intakes consist of graduates who did not study law at undergraduate level. That pushes the average age up from 24 to at least 25+, depending on whether the candidate also took a gap year, did a master's, was a career changer, and so on and so forth. The average age for qualifying in England as a whole is 29.

On top of this, there are very few firms that pay these newly qualified lawyers (NQs) a base salary of £150,000 or more - Legal Cheek says that there are four of them (https://www.legalcheek.com/the-firms-most-list/). These firms offer a total of 54 training contracts between them. The number of trainees who go on to actually qualify will be lower.

A further 15 firms offer their NQs salaries in excess of £140,000. These offer a further 185 training contracts between them. Once again, not all of those who complete the training contract will go on to qualify and earn the big bucks so to speak.

So, after all this song and dance, fewer than 250 graduates secure places on training programmes that eventually lead - upon their successful completion of course - to a base salary that is even close to what you are suggesting.

Now, further issues need to be discussed if we are to do the topic justice:

Firstly, there are probably a couple hundred more NQs in the City that will reach £150,000 if bonus is included - for example, those at lower paying US firms and those in very profitable transactional teams at certain English firms. So let's say that there are 500 or so NQs on £150,000 base in the City in total.

Secondly, some of the US firms mentioned above recruit more NQs than they have trainees, becaue training is expensive and time-consuming, so arguably that the number of training contracts understates reality. However, it is still uncommon to see lawyers jumping ship at the NQ level - usually they need to have built up some experience before they can move for a better salary.

Thirdly, the attrition rates at any firm/team that pays even close to £150,000 are horrendous - think 1-2 years on average. This means that, much like investment banking, the individual is not going to be earning a flashy salary for long or building any meaningful wealth with it. They probably have student debt to pay down and a deposit to think about! This is for the usual reasons: extremely long hours, 'on-call 24/7' culture, inability to take holidays, weekend working as the norm, stress, demanding clients.

Fourthly, these salaries have only become the norm in the past year or so, thanks to the 'boom' caused by Covid-induced governmental stimuli. It has yet to be seen whether they will survive the next recession, and whether the lawyers that earn them will be able to continue to generate enough profit to avoid redundancy.

These nuances are obviously lost for those who have no contact with the sector, but they do need to be taken into account. Without that, the £150,000 figure is misleading and only generates feelings of inferiority and bitterness.
(edited 2 years ago)
Original post by Augustino D
This post betrays your lack of understanding of the sector, as well as the FT's persistently poor coverage of anything law-related (not just salaries!).

The earliest that one of these "graduate lawyers" (are you referring to graduates or qualified solicitors?) would be earning that salary would after studying the LPC for a year and then two years of training on c.£50,000-60,000 a year. The absolute earliest they could secure this salary would therefore be at the age of 24.

Now, in reality, the firms that pay these enormous sums tend to recruit older candidates and half of their intakes consist of graduates who did not study law at undergraduate level. That pushes the average age up from 24 to at least 25+, depending on whether the candidate also took a gap year, did a master's, was a career changer, and so on and so forth. The average age for qualifying in England as a whole is 29.

On top of this, there are very few firms that pay these newly qualified lawyers (NQs) a base salary of £150,000 or more - Legal Cheek says that there are four of them (https://www.legalcheek.com/the-firms-most-list/). These firms offer a total of 54 training contracts between them. The number of trainees who go on to actually qualify will be lower.

A further 15 firms offer their NQs salaries in excess of £140,000. These offer a further 185 training contracts between them. Once again, not all of those who complete the training contract will go on to qualify and earn the big bucks so to speak.

So, after all this song and dance, fewer than 250 graduates secure places on training programmes that eventually lead - upon their successful completion of course - to a base salary that is even close to what you are suggesting.

Now, further issues need to be discussed if we are to do the topic justice:

Firstly, there are probably a couple hundred more NQs in the City that will reach £150,000 if bonus is included - for example, those at lower paying US firms and those in very profitable transactional teams at certain English firms. So let's say that there are 500 or so NQs on £150,000 base in the City in total.

Secondly, some of the US firms mentioned above recruit more NQs than they have trainees, becaue training is expensive and time-consuming, so arguably that the number of training contracts understates reality. However, it is still uncommon to see lawyers jumping ship at the NQ level - usually they need to have built up some experience before they can move for a better salary.

Thirdly, the attrition rates at any firm/team that pays even close to £150,000 are horrendous - think 1-2 years on average. This means that, much like investment banking, the individual is not going to be earning a flashy salary for long or building any meaningful wealth with it. They probably have student debt to pay down and a deposit to think about! This is for the usual reasons: extremely long hours, 'on-call 24/7' culture, inability to take holidays, weekend working as the norm, stress, demanding clients.

Fourthly, these salaries have only become the norm in the past year or so, thanks to the 'boom' caused by Covid-induced governmental stimuli. It has yet to be seen whether they will survive the next recession, and whether the lawyers that earn them will be able to continue to generate enough profit to avoid redundancy.

These nuances are obviously lost for those who have no contact with the sector, but they do need to be taken into account. Without that, the £150,000 figure is misleading and only generates feelings of inferiority and bitterness

I wouldn't take anything away from this starting salary - even on £50k, fresh as a graduate is a huge amount to earn, let alone £150k after a couple of years! I know a few oxbridge lawyers who have received these immense packages and like you say, the career is tough - yet still much more financially incentivised than a similarly worn out junior doctor. Also, you make out like the majority don't get NQ offers - I don't know a single person who hasn't received a NQ offer following their TC. Maybe you can clarify the statistics?
(edited 2 years ago)
Original post by Algimate
I wouldn't take anything away from this starting salary - even on £50k, fresh as a graduate is a huge amount to earn, let alone £150k after a couple of years! I know a few oxbridge lawyers who have received these immense packages and like you say, the career is tough - yet still much more financially incentivised than a similarly worn out junior doctor. Also, you make out like the majority don't get NQ offers - I don't know a single person who hasn't received a NQ offer following their TC. Maybe you can clarify the statistics?

I do not understand why every discussion on salaries results in an inevitable comparison to doctors. Doctors are paid by the public and their pay packets are therefore depressed, much like every employee of the Great British State. The solicitors earning £150,000 are employed by private partnerships or companies that exist to make a profit and predominantly serve large financial institutions and other highly sophisticated users of legal services. You would not expect the latter to be as stingy as the former, especially when the latter has a direct, financial interest in getting high-quality legal advice in the right timeframe. A more apt comparison would be between your typical commercial lawyer and an investment banker, asset manager, consultant or accountant, all of who support and advise on the matters that a £150,000-earning NQ would work on.

Regarding retention: There is nothing to clarify. I am not "making out" anything - you are the one trying to read into my post. I am simply making the point that retention of US firm trainees is often less than 100%, especially at the larger US firms that account for the bulk of the 239 training contracts I discussed above. Additionally on rare occasions, trainees quit half-way through their training contract because of the sheer workload and pressure they are under (this would not appear in retention data as the data only considers those who applied for a job at the end of the two years).

If we are going to be playing around with the fine points, I would point out that Legal Cheek always overestimates the number of training contracts available because firms express these numbers as "up to <X>" while Legal Cheek treats them as "<X>". Additionally, people do occasionally fail the LPC or verification or quit for other reasons before starting their training contracts, so 80 acceptances may not translate into 80 trainees.
Good luck getting a TC though :smile:
Original post by Augustino D
I do not understand why every discussion on salaries results in an inevitable comparison to doctors. Doctors are paid by the public and their pay packets are therefore depressed, much like every employee of the Great British State. The solicitors earning £150,000 are employed by private partnerships or companies that exist to make a profit and predominantly serve large financial institutions and other highly sophisticated users of legal services. You would not expect the latter to be as stingy as the former, especially when the latter has a direct, financial interest in getting high-quality legal advice in the right timeframe. A more apt comparison would be between your typical commercial lawyer and an investment banker, asset manager, consultant or accountant, all of who support and advise on the matters that a £150,000-earning NQ would work on.

Regarding retention: There is nothing to clarify. I am not "making out" anything - you are the one trying to read into my post. I am simply making the point that retention of US firm trainees is often less than 100%, especially at the larger US firms that account for the bulk of the 239 training contracts I discussed above. Additionally on rare occasions, trainees quit half-way through their training contract because of the sheer workload and pressure they are under (this would not appear in retention data as the data only considers those who applied for a job at the end of the two years).

If we are going to be playing around with the fine points, I would point out that Legal Cheek always overestimates the number of training contracts available because firms express these numbers as "up to <X>" while Legal Cheek treats them as "<X>". Additionally, people do occasionally fail the LPC or verification or quit for other reasons before starting their training contracts, so 80 acceptances may not translate into 80 trainees.

To add to your point on retention of NQs, it isn't about NQ offers not being given but people not taking them up. Last year V&E was the highest paying firm for NQ salaries and there was still one trainee in the intake that didn't take it....

Also people definitely don't always get retained lol.
Idiotic and irresponsible headline. There were 6,344 training contracts registered in England and Wales in 2020. Of these, fewer than 250 were at the firms that pay their NQs this much.

Even if NQ and other associate vacancies at these super-high-paying firms are more than 250, that only takes us to a fraction of the 156,122 solicitors who renew their practising certificates.
(edited 2 years ago)
Yes some graduate lawyer roles do come with those types of salaries on offer- for a summary of the small print see below. :biggrin:
Within certain firms, located in specific regions, available to graduates of a specific calibre & experience level, for practicing certain areas of law in often very niche & highly demanding roles with long hours and lots of last minute overtime.

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